Mental Imagery and Mirror Therapy

Patient getting mirror therapyMental Imagery Therapy

Mental imagery therapy is a treatment strategy used by physical and occupational therapists to improve mobility and function.  Patients are provided with a mental imagery program that targets a specific functional goal and uses images from their everyday life.  Mental imagery is used to link the patient goal with a functional and therapeutic goal.  The imagery activity causes the brain to “exercise” without the need for physical movement.

Mental imagery is proven to work with patients after stroke  and man also be used with patients who have other diagnoses, such as Parkinson’s, MS, brain injury or amputation.

Mirror Therapy

In patients with a diagnosis of stroke, mirror therapy has been found to improve some measures of strength impairment and upper limb activity. Mirror therapy combined with a conventional stroke rehabilitation program has been shown to enhance lower-extremity motor recovery and balance in subacute stroke patients.

The mirror is placed in the mid-sagittal plane between the affected and non-affected extremities with the affected extremity placed out of sight (inside box, behind mirror). The patient focuses on the mirror movements of the unaffected extremity. Activities may include simple active movements, functional movements with objects, or sensory stimulation.

The goals and benefit of this therapy include:

  • Improved functional independence
  • Improved upper extremity motor recovery, activity, and function
  • Improved lower extremity motor recovery
  •  Improved unilateral spatial neglect
  • Improved upper extremity sensorimotor function
  • Increased cortical reorganization of the brain